thumbnail

It is 3:00 on a brisk and overcast Tuesday afternoon, and the sun is already low in the sky. I am sitting in the galley of a tugboat — state of the art, I am told. The tugboat has all the amenities any crew would need with five staterooms, a kitchen, a washer and dryer, and even a weight room. There is some tension on board, with a hurry-up-and-wait attitude, when the phone finally rings. The deck mechanic answers and the barge we are waiting on is finally loaded with 1,500 metric tons (MT) of soft white wheat. The motor hums to life, and we start moving, slowly, toward the grain elevator. It is growing dark as two grain barges are tethered together, and we begin downriver from Lewiston, Ida., headed to Portland, Ore. It will be a two-and-a-half-day journey first down the Snake River, connecting to the Columbia River and finally to the Willamette River, to reach our Portland export elevator destinations, about 360 miles.

This river, in general, is very handsome, except at the rapid, where it is risking both life and property to pass.” – From the Journal of Sgt. Patrick Gass, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Michael Anderson is picture front, left with the crew of the tugboat crew.

We follow the same route that Lewis and Clark took as the “Corps of Discovery” traveled west. The rivers were different in 1805, untamed by today’s intricate system of dams and locks. The eight dams that we will pass through have made it possible to harness the rivers into a major artery carrying U.S. wheat bound for export from farm to port.

The boat rocks side to side on my first night. It is comfortable, but the unfamiliar feeling makes it hard to settle in. Suddenly the boat lurches, and the light outside gets brighter. The first lock, Lower Granite, comes into view from the deck. Two spotlights illuminate our way as we creep up to the lock. Slowly we approach the brightly lit lock and are guided in along a long concrete wall. The force of the shallow water beneath us is the only thing that keeps the tug and barges moving forward. With inches to spare on either side, we have entered the lock. Behind the boat, a gate rises from underneath the water; it is about three feet above the surface when suddenly the gate stops rising, and our boat starts sinking below the surface. It is a rapid movement, but it continues for a long time. The watermark rises above us as we descend below the surface, protected by thick concrete walls. Finally, we stop moving. We are now 100 feet below the level at which we entered the lock. I walk to the front of the boat just in time to see the gates in front, towering above us, start to open, revealing the river ahead, and slowly we make our way out of the lock and down the river.

As a crew member aboard a tug, your day is not a simple “9-to-5.” With one crew on and one off, the day is broken into shifts of six hours each, from 12 to 6 and 6 to 12. The environment shared by the crew is family-like, cooking meals together and watching TV. Only the person driving the boat, the captain or the pilot, is constantly on watch. The deck mechanics jump into action when the boat enters a lock or when we pick up another barge, and this journey is a four-barge tow, meaning four barges being pushed by one tugboat.

From the bridge, the captain has a sweeping view on all sides, and plenty of sophisticated equipment helps him navigate even when we are surrounded by fog, which in the Pacific Northwest is common. Another lock is just ahead. The boat only moves about nine miles per hour. We fit into the lock with precision, again with just a foot on each side to separate us from the massive concrete walls. Unlike the lock last night, this lock is too short to fit the whole tow in at once, but that is nothing out of the ordinary for this crew. Once the barges are tethered in place, the captain skillfully maneuvers the tugboat like a game of Tetris into a tiny space giving the back of the boat just enough room for the lock keeper to close us in. Again, a large iron gate rises from the water behind us, and like an elevator, we start moving down inch by inch. In front is what looks like a massive garage door. The lock opens, revealing the next stretch of the river ahead.

The mechanics of the lock are simple: we are moving down river with the flow of the water, so when we enter a lock, it is full of water. The lock seals behind us, and a valve is released to allow the water to rush out of the lock. The tow itself is being moved to the same level as the river we are moving down. Once the tow is at the same level as the water outside the lock, the valve is closed, and we wait for the massive concrete door ahead of us to open so the tow can move out. It is a similar procedure for ships going upriver against the flow, but instead of the valve releasing water, the valve fills the lock. It takes about 30 minutes to pass through each lock.

The Columbia Snake River System is a superhighway for moving wheat and other agricultural products from farm to market. The barges and rail lines that run on both banks of the Columbia River carry more than 55% of all U.S. wheat bound for export each year. Barges are the most efficient way to move large volumes of grain, making the river system a cost-effective and “green” logistical option. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the lock system; its history goes back to the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt personally inaugurated Bonneville, the first of the eight dams and locks east of Portland.

After about 60 hours on board the tugboat, we arrive in Vancouver, Wash., on the north bank of the Columbia River. We drop off two barges at an export elevator and proceed west again, up the north-flowing Willamette River that bisects Portland. It is my third river in a week, and we are taking the last barge to an export elevator just across the river from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) West Coast Office. There is a vessel at berth waiting for the wheat we carry. The crew drops the barge, and me, at the elevator. I walk up a set of metal stairs connected to a hoist and hop off, touching land for the first time since Tuesday. I walk across the river on Portland’s Steel Bridge, under which the wheat from our tow will pass on its way overseas, to my office.A tugboat pushes a grain barges down the Snake River on its way from Lewiston, Idaho to Portland, Ore.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

This story was originally published on October 21, 2019.

thumbnail

The first of its kind interactive wheat export supply system map that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) introduced in 2020 is a helpful planning tool for U.S. wheat customers, our staff, and others. USW produced the map with Heartland GIS using USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Promotion program funds. The “USW Wheat Export Supply System” map is posted here on the USW website.

“There are six distinct wheat classes grown across many states and delivered by many different routes. So the U.S. wheat supply chain truly is driven by geography,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “The wheat export supply system map provides a geographical information system. That helps USW representatives show the world’s wheat buyers where the wheat they want is grown and transported to the export elevator.”

“Assisting overseas customers is a critical service that helps add value to U.S. wheat,” said USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer. “This wheat export supply system map is unique, and a practical addition to the trade service our representatives conduct around the world.”

Interactive export supply system map to help when buying U.S. wheat

Click on the map to use this tool.

 

The map includes a selection tool that allows the viewer to identify, in any combination, U.S. wheat production by class, wheat shuttle loading terminals, Class 1 U.S. rail lines and spurs, wheat terminals on major rivers, and export elevator locations.

“Working with U.S. Wheat Associates and its state wheat commissions, we used data from a lot of sources, including satellite imagery, to identify wheat planted area data,” said Todd Tucky, Owner and Senior Consultant of Heartland GIS. “I believe this is the most accurate representation ever developed of where individual U.S. wheat classes are produced along with the parts of the export system.”

thumbnail

In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), wheat can move by barge to export elevators from as far away as Idaho. That is because of the series of eight locks and dams that make safe, efficient navigation possible on one of the leading trade gateways in the United States — the Columbia Snake River System.

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) notes that over 8.6 million tons of cargo are moved by barge on the inland portion of the system, feeding the deep draft lower Columbia River. The Columbia Snake River System is the top wheat export gateway in the nation.

Serving Asia, Latin America

Idaho exports more than half of its wheat crop each year. The Port of Lewiston on the Snake River, the most inland U.S. port, is uniquely positioned to source that wheat for the six major PNW export elevators serving Asian and Latin American wheat markets. All aspects of the river system are essential for transporting wheat from farm to market. However, barging through the lower Snake River is the most efficient, affordable, and environmentally friendly way to get that wheat to export locations. For context, one 4-barge tow on this river system moves as much cargo as 144 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks.

An estimated 10% of all U.S. wheat exported every year moves through the four locks and dams on the lower Snake River. The Idaho Wheat Commission and its partners recently shared the short video below that tells the story of how the Columbia Snake River System works for the world’s wheat importers, for the U.S. farmers who grow that wheat, and for the people of the Pacific Northwest.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) will share more information about the crucial role of the Columbia Snake River System in future Wheat Letter posts.

thumbnail

The commitment of the people who participate in every step of the U.S. wheat export supply system helps build an unmatched reputation for both quality and reliability.

The 2021 crop is an unfortunate but telling example of how U.S. farmers overcome significant risks to meet domestic wheat demand and still provide sufficient supplies for export markets. Farmers and commercial elevators can store and efficiently transport U.S. wheat in top condition to meet overseas demand when needed and throughout the marketing year. Prices are discovered through futures exchanges and basis costs that are always available to customers.

High Standards

The rigorous crop inspection and management continues with private export companies where high standards create the consistency and trust overseas customers depend on.

These companies use risk management tools to honor sales contract prices often made months before vessel loading. The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) independently inspects wheat at vessel loading to certify that the quality matches the customer’s specifications.

FGIS inspector of U.S. wheat

The Federal Grain Inspection Service weighs and inspects every sub-lot of U.S. wheat to certify it meets each customer’s specifications. This inspector is dividing a wheat sample into two equal sub-samples for various inspection processes.

“It’s a critical function the Federal Grain Inspection Service provides to meet our contractual obligation overseas and create that global standardization,” said United Grain Corp. President and CEO Augusto Bassanini. “I think that separates the value of U.S. wheat and other grain products from the rest of the world.”

Those inspections also yield valuable data down to the sub-lot level of 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons that offer customers even more value from their purchases with help from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

Personal Integrity

“Creating that difference for U.S. wheat is all done through relationships,” Bassanini said. “We couldn’t do it without the people, whether in this organization, whether in U.S. Wheat Associates. Really, it is that quality of those individuals that really creates, again, the unrivaled value to our customers.”

Augusto Bassanini

Augusto Bassanini, President and CEO, United Grain, Vancouver, Wash.

United Grain and Bassanini generously offered their story in USW’s video presentation “Wholesome: The Journey of U.S. Wheat” as a representative of all private export companies that share the U.S. wheat crop with the world. Now “Wheat Letter” shares that story below.

Learn more about how USW works with buyers and the U.S. wheat export supply system here.

thumbnail

As U.S. grain handlers transport wheat from the farm to grain companies by truck, river or rail, it is tested and sorted to meet customer specifications at every step of its journey to export elevators on the Gulf, Great Lakes or Pacific Northwest.

Logistics are a critical part of the work grain handlers do to make sure U.S. wheat arrives at export houses in peak condition and they take their jobs seriously. General Manager Paul Katovich and his colleagues at Highline Grain in Washington state think about the farm families they have served for generations. At the same time, like grain handlers across the United States, his organization is upgrading processes, storage and facilities to ensure those farmers and, ultimately, customers overseas are well served.

“We are all stewards of this platform,” Katovich said. “It is why we do what we do … with a greater purpose. What we talk about internally, in a group setting or when we go overseas, or when we have customers come here is, ‘What is it that we can do for you.’”

As a part of its film, “Wholesome: The Journey of U.S. Wheat,”  USW is sharing individual chapters of the video throughout the year. “Grain Handlers: Transporting the Crop” provides more information about the essential work of U.S. grain handlers.

thumbnail

In 2020, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) introduced the first digital map of the U.S. wheat export supply system as a visual planning tool for its overseas representatives and their customers. The “USW Wheat Export Supply System” map is posted here on the USW website and was built in cooperation with Heartland GIS using funds from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Promotion program.

“With six distinct wheat classes grown across many states and delivered by many different routes, the U.S. wheat supply chain truly is driven by geography,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “The map provides a geographical information system that our team of representatives can use to help the world’s wheat buyers literally see where the wheat they are buying is grown and how it can be transported to the export elevator.”

“Assisting overseas customers is a very important service that helps add value to U.S. wheat,” said USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer. “This map is a unique and very useful addition to the trade service our representatives conduct all around the world.”

Picture of U.S. wheat export supply map.

The map includes a selection tool that allows the viewer to identify, in any combination, U.S. wheat production by class, wheat shuttle loading terminals, Class 1 U.S. rail lines and spurs, river terminals, major rivers and export elevator locations.

“Working with U.S. Wheat Associates and its state wheat commissions, we used data from multiple sources, including satellite imagery, to identify wheat planted area between 2013 and 2019,” said Todd Tucky, Owner and Senior Consultant of Heartland GIS. “I believe this is the most accurate representation ever developed of where individual wheat classes have been produced in the United States.”

thumbnail

The United Grain Corporation (UGC) wheat, corn, and soybean export elevator in Vancouver, Wash., on the Columbia River, is the largest of its kind on the U.S. West Coast with storage of more than 220,000 metric tons. It was originally built in the 1920s and purchased by United Grain in 1970.

Like other U.S. facilities serving U.S. wheat buyers, the United Grain export elevator is part of the world’s most efficient supply system and is constantly improving.

“Every year we do upgrades and maintenance that make the facility the cutting edge operation it is today,” said Brian Liedl, UGC Director of Merchandising.

Video Tour

Earlier this year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) worked with United Grain to record a video tour of this amazing export elevator facility. USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching joined Liedl on a walk around the entire elevator and a detailed discussion of its systems. The program covers shuttle trains arriving from interior elevators and rapidly unloading wheat, explains how the facility separates and stores wheat by class and quality, discusses its investment in high-speed cleaning systems, and the essential work of federal grain inspectors.

Federal Control

Inside the inspection office, Liedl explained to Wirsching that under U.S. law, grain weight is measured and quality is tested by the Federal Grain Inspection Service before it is loaded onto a vessel for delivery.

“After our shipping bins are filled, those independent inspectors have control of the grain and only release it to be loaded after they determine it meets that customer’s specifications,” he said.

This program was created originally as part of a three-day USW seminar called “Contracting for Wheat Value” for Chinese customers. We are sharing it here to demonstrate how U.S. grain companies and the federal government are working to ensure all importers get the wheat they want as efficiently as possible.

Thank you to United Grain Corporation for their collaboration on this video.

thumbnail

By Michael Anderson, USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office

The uncertain nature of COVID-19 and the unprecedented changes it brought to how we live our lives has made every industry stop and consider how it can meet customer demands while protecting the health of its employees. While the novelty of the virus may have worn off, its presence has become a fact of life.

As the pandemic continues, the U.S. wheat supply chain is still working hard to meet the needs of customers, ensuring that the U.S. wheat store stays open. One crucial link in that chain is the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service. The work of FGIS is valued by overseas wheat buyers because they are assured that an independent agency has certified shipments to meet the weight and quality requirements specified in the sales contract.

“Our system of standardized, independent grain inspection makes U.S. wheat more valuable,” said USW Chairman Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, OR. “The proof of that came this year when many of our overseas buyers expressed a real concern that the pandemic would interrupt federal grain inspection and our supply chain.”

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) recently spoke with FGIS about the measures the agency is taking to protect the integrity of the work and its essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following are the answers provided by an agency spokesperson:

USW: How has the pandemic affected how FGIS manages its team of inspectors?

FGIS: “Within the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) we’ve conducted over 100 staffing actions in the past year (either new hires or promotions into new positions). The increase in hiring actions is a result of both the pandemic and an increase in inspections overall. We developed virtual onboarding so staff could be trained quickly and remotely. Our national network of field offices allows us to send additional staff on detail assignments to busy offices during the natural ebb and flow of the harvests and export patterns. We do this on a limited basis in any given season. When the COVID national emergency started we expanded that practice and set up an active list of interested personnel should a need arise somewhere. However, we have not had any shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that list has not been needed.”

USW: It cannot be easy keeping people socially distanced, when you think about the nature of exporting, transfer of samples/people in and out of facilities that are open around the clock. Yet, you have done that – any special steps that you have taken there?

FGIS: “Exporters have been essential in helping us ensure that FGIS on-site labs and common areas are clean and set up for social distancing. Most of our laboratories allow for social distancing and masks are required when that is not possible. USDA has ensured that all staff have access to cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment. In fact, our labs at AMS made hand sanitizer and masks for fellow employees this past spring when national supplies ran tight.”

USW: The U.S. government declared workers in the food industry and specifically agricultural workers essential in March 2020 to ensure the food supply chain would not be disrupted. Like a lot of essential industries, FGIS inspectors and staff must be taking extra precautions to stay healthy and avoid the risk of quarantine. Any special instructions that have been provided to them, or directives in terms of helping to keep them healthy?

FGIS: “We follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also mandate that employees clean their work-spaces after each shift, and do not enter any vessel offices while conducting stowage exams on ships.”

USW: Looking ahead, what can buyers of U.S. wheat and other commodities expect?

FGIS: “Our goal is to provide service safely, without interruption. We know the U.S. grain supply is essential to providing nutritious food around the world and we are proud of the role we play to keep those products moving with accurate and timely grades and weights for grain exports. FGIS has had no interruptions since the national emergency began and none are planned. We will continue to take actions to ensure inspection and weighing service can be provided safely, and we will continue to adapt and adjust to meet the needs of our customers.”

Through the committed efforts that extend from the farm to the FGIS inspectors and export elevator staff, wheat grown in the United States continues to flow to importing customers to continue feeding people around the world.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications.

 

 

 

thumbnail

By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

USDA currently estimates the United States will export 26.5 million metric tons (MMT) of wheat in 2020/21, 1 percent ahead of last year’s pace, if realized. Five months into marketing year (MY) 2020/21, total U.S. wheat commercial sales are 12 percent ahead of last year’s pace at 16.8 MMT and are 15 percent ahead of the 5-year average.

To date, export sales of hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and white wheat (soft and hard) are significantly ahead of last year’s pace. Sales of soft red winter (SRW) and durum lag 2019/20. Success in individual markets such as China and Brazil due to policy changes and follow-on trade and technical service by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) are supporting overall sales. As in other markets, competitive pricing for U.S. wheat early in MY 2020/21 helped fuel a faster import pace even by traditionally strong U.S. wheat buyers like the Philippines and South Korea.

HRW. Total HRW sales are 12 percent ahead of last year at 6.12 MMT. Stable exports to Mexico, Nigeria and Japan, the top three markets for HRW, and significantly stronger export programs to China and Brazil are supporting HRW sales in the first third of MY 2020/21.

As of Oct. 29, China has purchased 981,000 metric tons (MT) of HRW after no purchases in 2019/20. Strong HRW export sales so far in 2020/21 can be attributed to the Phase One agreement between the United States and China, as well as competitive HRW prices early in the marketing year. So far in MY 2020/21, China is the second largest market for HRW behind Mexico.

HRW export sales to Brazil are nearly two times more than this time last year at 513,000 MT and are 49 percent ahead of the 5-year average. According to Miguel Galdos, USW Regional Director, South America, the opportunity to advance sales to Brazil came with the Brazilian government opening a tariff rate quota (TRQ) allowing up to 750,000 MT of non-Mercosur (South America’s free trade bloc) wheat to enter the country tariff-free. Strong USW educational programs in Brazil are encouraging millers to take advantage of the high quality and competitive prices of U.S. wheat. To date, Brazil is the fifth largest market for HRW.

“USW provides the best trade and technical service to our customers and we are here for Brazilian mills for any need they have,” said Galdos.

Source: USDA FAS export sales data as of Oct. 29, 2020

HRS. Total HRS export sales of 4.72 MMT are 15 percent ahead of this time last year and are 8 percent ahead of the 5-year average. Sales to the Philippines, the top market for HRS, are 22 percent ahead of last year at 1.30 MMT and are 34 percent ahead of the 5-year average. Rising per capita consumption combined with population growth and competitive HRS prices early in the marketing year supported strong sales to the Philippines at the start of 2020/21.

In Japan, the second largest market for HRS, sales of 569,000 MT are up 20 percent on the year.

“We had good start this year in the Japanese market following the U.S. and Japan trade agreement implemented on January 1,” said Rick Nakano, USW Country Director, Japan. “This gives U.S. wheat a better opportunity to be traded on equal footing with similar classes of wheat from Canada. This results is a great outcome for U.S. wheat to compete equally again with Canadian wheat to meet the needs of Japan’s flour millers.”

Source: USDA FAS export sales data as of Oct. 29, 2020

White. Total U.S. white wheat sales are 41 percent ahead of this time in 2019/20 at 4.02 MMT and are 36 percent ahead of the 5-year average. In the Philippines, the largest market for U.S. soft white wheat, export sales are up 42 percent on the year and are 40 percent ahead of the 5-year average.

The increased demand by Philippine millers is partially due to early customer buying in response to tight export elevation capacity in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Strong USW educational programs in the Philippines helped customers stay informed and make timely buying decisions in the first third of MY 2020/21.

Sales to South Korea, the second largest market for U.S. soft white wheat, are 79 percent ahead of last year’s pace and are 53 percent ahead of the 5-year average. Soft white wheat on a C&F (FOB and freight) landed basis to South Korea has been priced very competitively.

Looking ahead, Australia’s larger 2020 crop is coming to market and its prices are coming down. USDA predicts the 2020/21 Australian wheat crop will reach 28.5 MMT this year, 87% ahead of last year as beneficial rains pull the country out of a three-year drought.

Source: USDA FAS export sales data as of Oct. 29, 2020

SRW export sales are a different story. Total SRW export sales are down 26 percent on the year at 1.36 MMT, 21 percent behind the 5-year average. SRW export sales to all of the country’s top 10 overseas markets are behind last year’s pace.

“SRW prices are just too high right now,” said one grain trader, “the United States is priced out of the world market, especially to our buyers in Latin America and Nigeria.”

Between early June and late October, the average export price for SRW was $233/MT, 12 percent higher than the same period last year. Limited exportable supplies of SRW along the Mississippi River due to lower planted area in key states and extremely tight export elevation capacity in the Center Gulf due to increased export demand for soybeans and corn continue to support SRW export prices early in MY 2020/21.

Durum. Year-to-date durum sales in 2020/21 are 19 percent behind last year’s pace at 541,000 MT but are 30 percent ahead of the 5-year average. Total sales to Italy, the largest market for U.S. durum, are only 3 percent behind last year’s pace, but are 66 percent ahead of the 5-year average.

 

 

thumbnail

By Claire Hutchins, U.S. Wheat Associates Market Analyst

It is no secret that wheat futures prices have reached unexpected heights recently. Higher futures prices usually pressure export basis values when farmers sell wheat “into the rally” because that increases exportable U.S. wheat supplies. However, we are seeing a completely different phenomenon in the recent market. Extremely tight elevation capacity out of the Gulf and Pacific Northwest (PNW) due to massive U.S. agricultural commodity exports to China is sustaining high wheat export basis values, despite increased farmer selling.

CBOT soft red winter (SRW) futures and KCBT hard red winter (HRW) futures, specifically, have jumped over the past month beyond expected levels. Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 9, for example, CBOT SRW futures prices increased 11 percent to $5.94/bu, the highest since December 2014. Over the same period, KCBT HRW future prices jumped 13 percent to $5.36/bu, the highest since August 2018. MGE hard red spring (HRS) futures have increased too, by 6 percent since Sept. 11 to close at $5.44/bu on Oct. 9.

Source: DTN and USW Price Charting Tools

U.S. grain traders agree generally that the “run up” in futures prices is attributed to technical buying, where “managed money” or commodity funds buy significant amounts of U.S. wheat futures contracts with the expectation that the contracts will gain value over time. While not the whole story, part of this technical buying spree can be attributed to varying severities of dryness from Argentina to the U.S. Great Plains to the Black Sea.

These high export basis levels could hold on. “Increased farmer selling hasn’t made a dent on export basis,” said one grain trader. Limited elevation capacity is the reason.  That is because China has purchased 22.1 million metric tons (MMT) of U.S. soybeans, 9.98 MMT of corn and 1.48 MMT of wheat for delivery in 2020/21, as of Oct.1. Such demand causing “nearly non-existent” elevation capacity for wheat is sending export basis values higher.

“October, November and now nearly all of December are at capacity; we can’t add a lot more business for those months. If anyone were to sell anything for those delivery periods, it would raise elevation costs substantially more,” said another industry contact.

Additionally, export elevators are likely to charge more to elevate wheat in the next couple of months because they expect to store and export more corn and soybeans. It is more complex and expensive for export elevators to handle multiple commodities at the same time, said a representative from the U.S. grain trade.

Between June 5 and Oct. 9, Gulf HRS 14.0 percent protein export basis (on a 12 percent moisture basis) jumped 55 percent to $2.40/bu, Gulf HRW 11.5 percent protein export basis jumped 31 percent to $1.90/bu and Gulf SRW export basis jumped 80 percent to $1.35/bu.

Over the same period, PNW HRS 14.0 percent protein export basis increased 55 percent to end at $2.40/bu and PNW HRW 11.5 percent protein export basis increased 47 percent to close at $2.50/bu.

The two components of FOB are the futures price plus export basis so when both go up, the FOB prices jump substantially.

Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 9, Gulf HRS 14.0 percent protein FOB jumped 6 percent to end at $288/MT, the highest since June 2018. Gulf HRW 11.5 jumped 9 percent to close at $267/MT, the highest since December 2014. SRW increased 11 percent to end at $277/MT, the highest in over five years.

Over the same period, PNW HRS 14.0 percent protein increased 7 percent to close at $288/MT, the highest since May 2018, and PNW HRW 11.5 percent protein jumped 9 percent to end at $289/MT, the highest in more than five years.

What does this mean moving forward?

While U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) does not have a crystal ball, based on our information, we expect  export basis levels will stay at these higher levels through January assuming Chinese buying remains strong.  Futures prices could come down off their recent rally if, for example, “managed money” reverses its long position in wheat futures, but there would have to be a significant downward correction to take pressure off current FOB values.